Backgrounds of a Choice

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments….
. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days… Deuteronomy 30:15-20

This is a thought from an unknown writer::

Earlier this winter, I looked out the window to see cars trying to park in a snow-covered lot. I noticed that people were parking any which way they could.  I thought back to my senior year of high school.  Every winter, a new class would discover what it’s like the first time they pulled into the parking lot to see nothing but a blanket of white snow. I would survey the lot and notice cars parked in the strangest ways; sideways, crooked, one inch from next car, or 4 feet from the car next to it.  Then, come lunch hour, when the sun had some time to melt the snow, people would be able to see the lines, and notice how terribly far off most the cars were.
. The lines that showed where to park gave order and peace to the parking lot.  Without the lines, there was chaos with a mess of cars facing every which way.
. There is another set of “lines” to provide us with peace and order in our lives.  When I chose to follow the Word of God, that is Scripture, and listen to and obey the example Jesus left for me, I found peace, comfort and of course, order.

The snow-covered lot has quite a lesson for us.  When there was no ability to see where one must go, no matter how well each person may be quite familiar to the parking lot and its spaces, it was very easy to end up missing the space; when everybody was left on their own, the result was chaos and disarray.  Even those familiar with the lot, although perhaps closer to where the stalls would be, still were pronouncedly off the mark.  Fortunately all that was at stake in that situation was perhaps a lot which held fewer cars than it was meant to, and perhaps a dent or two.

As Moses was calling Israel to choose to get in line with the Lord’s will, what was at stake was not merely an inconvenience or minor accident from not quite hitting a parking space properly.  He had seen the cost of outright rebellion in Israel in grim display.  Barely out of Egypt, they already were giving the honor and Glory of their deliverance to an idol – something so “powerful” as to rescue them from the slavery they were helpless against, yet ironically was the product of the very hands which were so hopeless against the slave masters [Exodus 32].

Another time they eagerly jumped on the bandwagon of not freedom but of license, not the freedom of their release from slavery, not the freedom to serve their Lord and each other with the marvelous gifts He bestowed upon them, but rather a new slavery which would trade God’s precious gift of their bodies for trivialized “love” and hollow “fun” as they submitted to a different false God [Numbers 25].  This disregard of God resulted in a deadly plague.

Then there was the time when Israel utterly disdained the gifts of God’s nurture and care and utterly rebelled, which brought upon themselves the plague of fiery serpents [Numbers 21].  Another time, Israel rebelled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, thinking they could find a better leader among themselves, whereupon the earth opened and the rebels and their families were swallowed up [Numbers 16].

But Moses had also seen that even he was not exempt from the results of not following God’s will.  Although Moses had been commissioned by God to bring Israel out of Egypt, before he even got to Pharaoh’s palace, God was going to kill him for neglecting to bring his family under the Abraham Covenant of Circumcision, until his wife took over what he had ignored [Exodus 4].  Then, close, so close to the Promised Land, when the People were thirsty and Moses was to speak to the rock to get water out of it, instead in his anger he beat the rock.  Instantly he lost what had been the desire of his heart, that of the privilege of him stepping upon the Promised Land [Numbers 20].

So Moses was quite aware at how serious God was when it came to His People’s obedience, and he was very concerned that Israel should not take lightly what God offered them as they made their choice.  Their future hung in the balance: follow God’s will and there will be great blessings to be had along the way; rebel, refuse, reject and there would be severe judgment, great distress, and death within the emptiness by closing the door on God’s help.
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Now human nature loves to interpret this as if God was being only petulant, as if this were but a minor offense and God’s nose is merely “put out of joint.”   But Moses knew that the stakes were much higher than that.  In the coming centuries, this situation would touch the very nature of God Himself: it would touch on His nature of goodness, grace and mercy, where He would go to impossible lengths to become one with humanity; in Covenant He would join divine nature with human nature – it would be His brow which would feel the thorns, His back the bit of the whip, His hands the writhing agony of the nails, His soul the abandonment of the Father.

He Himself would bend so impossibly low in order to steadfastly love, that he would share the life of sore muscles and a painful back from the carpentry shop, the yearning voice for those who were lost and bewildered, the tears of grief at the graveside, the joy of successes along the way, even in the sharing of playfulness with children.  He would experience the satisfaction in the eyes and lives of people, as they saw promises kept, as He touched their needs and their ills, and especially their spirits with divine forgiveness.  He would see the fruit of patience in such as the likes of Peter and the other disciples who had taken so long to finally understand what Jesus was about.

And He would see the fulfillment of justice, not of people being damned, but of the wonderful peace which comes when they chose Him, handing over the burden of their rebellions, rejections, and sins in repentance; seeing the deserved penalty not fall on their shoulders but rather be lifted and placed upon Himself, knowing that they are freed, never having to return to the old ways again.  It is the pleasure of seeing redeemed people now discovering changed attitudes and perspectives which lift them into the realms of the Glory of God.

This God is playing for keeps for His People.  He is serious about death and sin, but also about deliverance and abundant life, Covenant and eternal communion – not eternal damnation!– of those who choose that He set up housekeeping in their hearts through the Holy Spirit.  One question for you to think about: is there anything else He could have become, anything else He could of done, anything else He could have said to demonstrate any greater His commitment to you?

This is how powerful our choice is to Him.  Our choice??  Weren’t we just talking about what He chose to do??  Yet as we make our choice we must see again His choice to be so extremely committed to us as the only source for our ability to choose Him!   His choice was not a casual detachment of merely going through the motions, but rather it was the gasping pain of suffering, especially the heart-tears at the obstinate disbelief and the callous apathy from those for whom He has done everything – and beyond everything – He could have done.  Yet there is also the great rejoicing which occurs throughout heaven when each of us chooses the Lord over the alternative of evil and destruction.  It is hard to conceive of just how much our choice should have such profound effect on Him,

Now all of this sounds very glowing, but what will happen as we leave the church doors?  How does choosing the Lord have any effect on the realities of life?  When we are faced with daily or even extended problems: diseases and cancers, family problems, school problems, work problems, the pain people can cause each other, spiritual disappointments, struggles basic needs, the exhaustion and frustration of never ending toil wherever it is required?

That is why our choice, our intention to as fully as possible commit ourselves to the Lord and His way, can only come by focusing on just how full the Lord’s commitment is to us.  This alone compels us to consider the depth and the extent of how valuable He has made us to Himself, which in turn creates a different attitude and outlook in us.  As we realize that God is so unbendably serious about our salvation, about placing His Glory into our lives, and about the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts, it makes us step forward with more confidence, even during those times when the Lord does not respond to our concerns quite the way we would like Him to.

With such a powerful and total commitment on His part, we realize how we are not abandoned to a world of frustration and overwhelming conditions, but rather He is really determined to bring His blessings to bear upon us.  The impact of Holy Communion demonstrates in the midst of our needs the heart and continuing commitment He has for us not for mere occasional incidents, but in the continuous personal care declared so very face-to-face in each fragment of bread and sip of wine.

So even those times when it seems like heaven’s response is a big black hole as we seek guidance and direction, we are reminded that this God has not taken His commitment lightly.  We don’t often recognize the nudge of His hand, or the placement of our foot on His path until we look back on that path.  Yet we hold on to the fact that God is very serious about our place in His heart and He has promised that He directly makes all things work together for good [Romans 8:28], that He will not treat lightly what has been done in His Name [I Corinthians 15:58], and that how especially the changes in our life are the result of the effect of His unyielding commitment on our minds and hearts. [Romans 12:2]

So we come today asked to choose, not as if we are on a snow covered parking lot where we have no idea where the guide lines and the stalls lie, but rather the surety of witnessing the profound commitment of God toward us, seeing how He will not back away from the depth of His involvement even when it means His own suffering and death.  It is the basis which answers Moses’ call for us to choose this day for the Lord, for life, blessing, and prosperity.  Again and again in Word and Sacrament, His presence is confirmed for our lives, in the life-and-death seriousness of His desire for us which is revealed yet again, and again, and again each week, so that yes, we can indeed choose, choose Him, choose life, choose blessing, all with the continuing evidence of His support and involvement in our lives and our eternal destiny by His side.

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